Also, the notion of an 'Axial Age
' would not have been conceptualized by Karl Jaspers had there been no commonality between the Zhou Dynasty (c.
It was in such a situation of crises that religions and visionary personalities in the axial age
emerged on the world historical scene.
Elman invokes Axial Age
theory as a heuristic to tease out the cognitive styles and modes of explanation from the textual output of scholars and scribes of Mesopotamia, rabbis of the Babylonian Talmud, and Zoroastrian priests as a means to assess contacts, commonalities, and differences between them.
Peters emphasizes the notion of an axial age
breakthrough introduced by psychiatrist-philosopher Karl Jaspers in The Origin and Goal of History (1949) and developed more recently by Bellah in his monumental Religion in Human Evolution (2011).
Specific topics include religion and public space in contemporary Japan: re-activation of the civilization of the Axial Age
and the manifestation of state Shinto and Buddhism, religion intersecting de-nationalization and re-nationalization in post-apartheid South Africa, religion and life trajectories: Islamists against self and other, of yellow teaching and black faith: entangled knowledge cultures and the creation of religious traditions, and global intellectual history and the dynamics of religion.
We are, he suggests, at the dawn of a new Axial Age
in which our sense of absolutely everything will change, brought about by technology we may have invented but will not control, like an unbound Prometheus.
Although the second Axial Age
he mentions demands attention to techno-human relations, a third Axial Age
is already looming on the horizon.
Above all, if this is to be a new axial age
, we need to follow the nostrum of the bumper sticker "Do not believe everything you think".
Eisenstadt, ed., The Origins and Diversity of Axial Age
Civilizations, SUNY Series in Near Eastern Studies (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1986).
Between Egypt in the first chapter and monotheism in the last, five chapters deal in various ways with the transition from one to the other, analyzing the Exodus myth, understanding the shift in terms of evolution and revolution, confronting Akhenaten and Moses in a new way, discussing Karl Jaspers' theory of the Axial Age
, and dealing with the eighteenth-century view of the Egyptian mysteries as a cultural model.
Jaspers called this period the Axial Age
, because it gave rise to traditions that extend outward into our own time like the spokes of a wheel.